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Willapa Harbor Herald • Town Crier
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(360) 942-3466 • PO Box 706, Raymond, WA 98577

Grays Harbor College serves workers in area’s natural resourced based economy

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an economy in decline since the timber boom of the 1800s and early 1900s. Due to the ease of buying abroad with increased free trade and stricter environmental restrictions for protection of the spotted owl and salmon, the timber and fishing industries of Grays Harbor struggle today.

The college recognizes that the economy of the area is shifting. “The natural resource based economy will not be same that it once was. The products, how they are made, and how they are transported will never be the same. There will be fewer people and they will be more highly skilled, i.e. Cosmo Fibers,” said Mike Kelly, GHC Dean for Workforce Education.

With this in mind, GHC strives to educate and train students with useful skills in this economy through technical programs, among others. “Students must be able to problem solve, trouble shoot, and be ready to learn how to learn,” Kelly said.

GHC currently educates 3,311 students, 43% of which are enrolled in workforce/vocational programs. To ensure that these programs meet the needs of area employers, an advisory committee consisting of management and labor workers from the specific field oversees each program. Some of the workforce preparation programs that GHC offers include Accounting, Automotive Technology, Carpentry, Commercial Truck Driving, Diesel Technology, Energy Technology, and Sustainable Landscaping and Gardening. Of the programs, Nursing and Welding are the most popular. The Nursing Program has a total of 70 students, facilitating in the completion of degrees in Registered Nursing (AAS), Nursing Assistant Training (CA), and Practical Nursing (CC). The Welding Program has a year-long waiting list and educates 20 students each year, allowing students to complete degrees in Welding Technology (AT, CC), Related Welding (CC), Welding Basics Level 1 and 2 (CA), Pipe Welding Level 3 (CA), and Industrial Welding Level 4 (CA).

In the case of closure of a mill, plant, or company, GHC offers workforce re-training programs to those who lose their jobs. The Rapid Response Team helps laid-off workers access programs, and with Commissioner Approved Training (CAT) they can continue to receive unemployment insurance while attending college. Debbie Ritchers, the Worker Retraining Coordinator can guide potential laid off workers through the process of enrollment, and can be contacted at  or 360.538.4095.

In order to add new technical training programs, the college must work with local employers to determine if there is sufficient demand for the new technical skill in question. The college must also conclude that the new program will allow students to enter a field that will offer adequate income to support families. Because of these requirements, adding new technical programs require a great deal of work.

The college recently received a grant to expand the existing Commercial Driving License (CDL) program to offer additional courses to veterans. Details of these new courses are being determined by the college and will be released as soon as possible.

Additionally, GHC provides technical training at local high schools through the Tech Prep program, a dual credit program in which high school students can earn college credit for a program at GHC. Students can earn credit for computer classes, carpentry, automobile, welding, criminal justice, natural resources and more. These credits can fulfill a requirement for their AAS degree, be applied to their general electives for the AA degree, or be transferred to a four-year college. Most students that participate in the Tech Prep program earn 3-5 credits over their four years of high school.

For more information on the technical programs offered at GHC, contact Kelly at or 360-538-4013.



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